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Holiday season, 2020 a mixed bag for retailers

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The economic and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the outlook for retail spending throughout 2020.
And the Code Red restrictions put in place in Manitoba in mid-November amplified that fact for local retailers through the holiday season, normally their busiest time of year.
“November 15 to December 25 is like the worst time we could ever be closed. That’s where a lot of our business comes from in the month of November and December. I don’t want to be the guy that’s complaining, but I would have rather been opened for 45 days up until Christmas and then close 45 days after Christmas,” said Parkland Source for Sports owner Dave Campbell.
“We’re down over 50 per cent, but we’re doing what we can do to survive. We still obviously did make some sales, but we’re way down, that’s for sure.”
In an attempt to limit the damage to his business, Campbell implemented a number of initiatives to maximize sales during the holiday season.
“We did curbside pickup and free delivery and we have our two websites that people can reserve orders on; socialsports.ca and the locally.com that we have in our ads,” he said.
“We did sell some stuff, yeah, but at the end of the day, you know, we’re down over 50 per cent, but just hoping that we can bounce back.”
The cancellation of minor sports, particularly minor hockey, was also a blow for Campbell as people were not looking for equipment and supplies as they normally would.
“We somewhat recovered from the first shutdown and got back close to normal kind of thing and then . . .,” Campbell said.
“It’s been a tough year overall and January and February don’t look too promising either.”
The shut down and stay at home orders were not as harmful to some businesses which offered goods people could utilize during the lockdown.
“People were making purchases of instruments and TVs just to occupy themselves and do things at home. So we sold a lot of guitars and a lot of other instruments went, a lot of TVs went,” said Dan Zabiaka of Dauphin Music and Electronics.
“Things went pretty well considering we were locked up and not able to open our doors. Of course, it was down from last year, but that’s to be expected.”
Like other businesses Zabiaka did what he could to keep operating within the public health orders.
“We did posts on Facebook, a lot of contacts to us on Facebook, a lot of contacts from our website by email and lots of calls,” Zabiaka said.
“Between Facebook and emails and phone calls and curbside delivery, we still did pretty well. It was a lot more work for what you were selling but hey, you’re still selling, right.”
Throughout the year the Dauphin Music and Electronics has enjoyed success although there have been some challenges.
“Usually the end of November and December is the golden part of our year where people are doing a lot of shopping. That was a little off because of the way we were shut down, but overall for the year we were up because people were just doing things at home,” Zabiaka said, adding he appreciates the support of the community throughout the year.
“And, of course, people were doing that everywhere, so the whole supply chain was in turmoil where our shelves were half empty for a few months. Getting any kind of inventory from anybody for any store was a struggle.”
“Some stores that were probably a little bit disastrous and much worse than we were just because of the nature of their business, but for us overall, we did pretty good considering.”
For Campbell, difficulties arose around the lack of consistency around the rules.
“It would be nice if there was one set of rules for the country, or western Canada or even in the province. I know Canadian Footwear was open, but I can’t sell shoes. Well that’s all they do is sell shoes, so how are they open. It’s just ridiculous,” he said, adding he has had to reduce his staff due to the shutdown.
“It sucks having to lay off some people. I had to lay off a couple people, so they didn’t have jobs and they’re trying to find government money somehow. It’s unfortunate that I have to do that, but I can’t sacrifice the business. It definitely hasn’t been fun, but I just go with it day by day and take it as it comes. There’s not much I can do really about it.”
What Campbell does hope is people come back to shopping at home once the rules begin to relax.
“We’re down over 50 per cent, but we’re not going anywhere. People do need to realize, too, that over 50 per cent is over 50 per cent and then that might remind them to shop local,” Campbell said.
“But we’ll just keep battling and see how it goes.”